There’s a moment, bang in the middle of Jab Harry Met Sejal, when one of the titular characters remarks snidely “This is silly, we need to get out of here”, and you end up thinking to yourself, what if the same had been said by Aditya to Geet (Jab We Met) or Tara to Ved (Tamasha), the seeming voices of reason asking a dreamer to change course, to not fly too close to the sun, to stop sprinting and take a breath. When the promos of JHMS first showed up, it seemed like yet another Imtiaz Ali tale of two strangers in a strange land, but when the two strangers happen to be Shahrukh Khan and Anushka Sharma, can the magic of Jab We Met, the soulfulness of Highway and the pathos of Tamasha be captured again on celluloid?
Harjinder AKA Harry (Shah Rukh Khan) is a tour guide for a European travel agency, in charge of shepherding Indian tourist families around Europe, but finds himself lost, a man with no direction home. One day when he’s confronted with Sejal (Anushka Sharma), a member of the tour group he just bid adieu to, and pulled into a quest through most of Europe to locate her missing engagement ring, he finds himself slowly shedding the armor he’s spent a lifetime building around himself. But are Harry and Sejal really meant to be together, or is he doomed to spend a lifetime with the memories of the brief moments of joy they shared together. No matter how polarizing Imtiaz Ali’s past offerings have been (With the exception of Jab We Met), one cannot deny that in spite of all their flaws, his movies possessed a soul that most Bollywood concoctions lack, which is why it is an absolute horror to be subjected to the abysmal writing that ends up making JHMS a spectacular misfire. He revisits all the old tropes that made his past movies successful, but, far from giving us a fresh take on them, he instead lets the movie run on autopilot, right up to the moment it crashes and burns.
It is Shah Rukh Khan and Anushka Sharma however who are the victims of an insipid screenplay, as there is absolutely no depth to their characters, and while they draw on their personal charisma leading to some charming moments, for the most, both Harry and Sejal come across as extremely unpleasant and charmless. This is especially a pity as right from Socha Na Tha to Tamasha, an Imtiaz Ali movie has always possessed compelling performances from its leads, and when he finally gets the King Khan and the effervescent Anushka in a romantic comedy, the writing just botches everything up.
To sum it up, Jab Harry Met Sejal is an act of cinematic indifference, and it is only the brave who will grit their teeth, and sit through this mind-numbing exercise in narcissism and faux-profundity right up to the climax!